Labour must get its message across to voters if it is to avoid another humiliating election trouncing, Birmingham City Council opposition leader Sir Albert Bore has admitted.
Sir Albert accepted he had to take part of the blame and would not "shirk from the responsibility" of finding a way to win the hearts and minds of the electorate following last Thursday's election results, when the party lost six councillors to the Tories.
He was commenting on research by The Birmingham Post showing that a repeat of May 1 voting patterns in 2010 could see Labour losing a further seven seats, taking the group to just 29 councillors against 53 for the Conservatives, 35 for the Liberal Democrats and three for Respect.
Such an outcome would put Labour at its weakest in Birmingham for a generation.
Sir Albert insisted the party's chances of recovering by 2010 rested largely on the Government's popularity, but there was more that could be done in Birmingham to promote Labour policies in an effective way.
He believes this year's poor showing was driven by national politics, with Labour supporters staying at home in protest at Government mistakes including the 10p income tax row.
He added: "If you look at Birmingham what you see in a lot of the outer suburbs is actually a drop in turnout. If you look at the Conservative vote, it has held up, while the Labour vote has dropped."
A claim by Tory council leader Mike Whitby that three successive years of 1.9 per cent council tax rises helped boost votes for candidates representing the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, was dismissed as "utter nonsense" by Sir Albert.
Sir Albert said: "In the first instance the Labour Government has got to be much clearer in terms of the policies it is trying to pursue. There has to be a greater unity around the agenda. There has to be a great deal more effort in communicating.
"The Government needs to get its act together."
He admitted the "prevailing conditions" would have to be sharply different in 2010, the year in which most people think a General Election will be held, if Labour was to avoid further electoral defeats. And in a message to some of his colleagues, Sir Albert drew comparisons with Manchester, where Labour's vote held up last Thursday.
Although admitting it was easier for Labour in Manchester to gain favourable publicity, since the party controls the city council, Sir Albert added: "Labour has been able to portray its policies very clearly. It has not sat back and moaned about things in a way that sometimes happens here. They are capturing the hearts and minds of voters. Labour needs to be doing that in Birmingham.
"It is difficult for an opposition to score and it is easier in Manchester to make these wins. But there is a responsibility and I am not going to shirk it."
Based on this year's results, Labour councillors in danger of losing their seats in 2010 are: Lynda Clayton (Tyburn); Barbara Dring (Oscott); Mohammed Fazal (Springfield); Zoe Hopkins (Kingstanding); Mohammed Idrees (Washwood Heath); Ziaul Islam (Aston); Barbara Tassa (Stockland Green). Gill Beddows would also be vulnerable in Hodge Hill, where the Liberal Democrats picked up a seat in 2007. The Lib Dems failure to win the ward last week is being blamed on a strong personal vote for Labour councillor Anita Ward, who has held her seat since 1996.
Labour's chances of recovering by 2010 were described as "very small" by Yardley Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming.
Mr Hemming, who chairs the council's Lib Dem group, said: "Even if Labour get rid of Gordon Brown and replace him with David Miliband, there is a question of whether that would win any votes back. You will still have an unpopular Government in 2010 and you could have council elections on the same day as the General Election."